I've definitely gossiped about people and I realized it was even somewhat automatic as a conversation starter. In the last few months I have made an active effort to stop. That includes reducing my time with people who tend to gossip, mentally filtering what I say more carefully, or walking away from conversations sometimes. In this post I wanted to talk about the Gurdwara Sahib in particular, and why we should not gossip.
The Gurdwara seems to be a central place for gossip. Men will camp out downstairs to gossip, and women will gossip while doing sewa in the kitchen. When one person leaves, everyone talks about her. What people fail to recognize is that we do not come to sit in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib Ji while we speak against God’s creation!!! Each person is the sargun saroop of God, and we should be singing God’s praises.
At one point or another, or sometimes quite frequently, gossip becomes about you. It is painful to hear what people are spreading around about you, even if it's a lie. It is easy for someone (like me right now) to say just forget about what other people think and live your life. It’s easy to say that gossip is constantly changing, and this won’t be a problem for long, etc. In reality, it is really hard to live through it though. This is particularly true in the context of the Gurdwara, which is a place we go to find peace and be uplifted, to sit in sangat and learn from each other. Yet the people who are supposed to be your community/your support, are the ones staring you down, whispering, laughing, or making you feel like an outsider. Instead of helping people, it becomes an opportunity to isolate them and make them feel worse. The Gurdwara is supposed to be a place of inclusiveness and love. We take away comfort and safety in the one place everyone deserves to feel good.
I propose a few things as a solution to this. Firstly, we need to be aware of gossip in its many forms. Second, we can choose not to start or participate in these conversations which can include walking away, changing the topic, etc. At the Gurdwara when we do sewa, we should do simran out loud or sing shabads so people don’t talk about things. Think before you speak. Often times I think gossip is fuelled by insecurity. People try to feed their own egos by creating competition. We are at the Gurdwara to learn to get rid of our ego! Any situation that can happen to another person could be our situation. We are no better than anyone else. We are in no position to judge someone else, and a true Gurmukh does not speak badly of another person. These conversations are honestly wasting away our lives, and destroying other people’s lives. Gurbani tells us, “Your mouth has not stopped slandering and gossiping about others. Your service is useless and fruitless.” (p. 1253). The purpose of the sewa is to be done with love. Our goal of union with God is never going to happen if we are constantly speaking badly about others.
On another level, it’s important to build up an inner strength so that what other people say to us doesn’t matter. This too happens through simran and applying the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. No one can destroy your relationship with God so it doesn’t matter what other people are saying, you should focus on reaching your goal: “Kabeer, how can the wretched people slander me? They have no wisdom or intelligence. Kabeer continues to dwell upon the Lord's Name; I have abandoned all other affairs.” (p. 1366). Remember how many examples there are in our history of people speaking against our Guru Jis. This did not stop them from their purpose. If people can’t see you for who you are, that’s their problem. It says in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, “If you desire to play this game of love with Me, then step onto My Path with your head in hand. When you place your feet on this Path, give Me your head, and do not pay any attention to public opinion” (p. 1412) and “One who is imbued with the Lord’s love is slandered- this is what I have seen in this Dark Age of Kali Yuga” (p. 299).
Let us all stop gossiping and encourage others to do the same, whether it is inside the Gurdwara or outside! Instead, let us spread the love for God.